Do "Points of Light" = New Core Campaign Setting?

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Do any of the current campaign settings really fit under this new “Points of Light,” conceit that R&D is now talking about? With a lack of border nations and an abundance of small isolated towns and cities with no real solid connection to one another, it doesn’t sound very exciting. Though that’s just my opinion, as I prefer large populated cities and nations as well.

I should also note that I run a home brewed campaign and that no decision within the campaign structure made by R&D is going to hamper that world. Still, it does seem to stray away from existing world structures, especially Eberron, with its lightning rails and other magically enhanced modes of transportation.

Will they be releasing a new campaign world to better fit this new design concept? And how will the old campaign settings be seen in this new light? We know that Forgotten Realms will see a 4E revamp in August, however I never really saw that world as very isolated. In some areas yes, but there are plenty of nations and structured governments to be had, so how will this impact Faerun and the rest of the world of Abeir-Toril?

I just found it a strange new focus for D&D and really wanted to hear what others thought of how this might change existing worlds if R&D puts a strong focus on it. I very seriously doubt we will see much meddling with the existing worlds, but I imagine a new core world would not be beyond the scope of reason.
It sounds mostly likely that this isn't a campaign setting, in the proper sense, so much as describing a general sort of world in which DnD-style adventuring parties can thrive.
I wasn't implying that they were speaking of creating a new campaign world in the latest R&D article. I just didn't see how this sparse, unknown world of danger and isolation applied to the current campaign settings.

Thus I was wondering if it might entail the design of a new setting to encompass such a barren world. Because currently it doesn't really fit the scheme of what's going on and thus I really couldn't see anyone applying it to the "core worlds" because of that fact.

It seems like just another point of the book that will be glanced over and generally ignored as so much fluff if the ideas only intention is to tell us there are monsters out there trying to kill our characters.

"Gee thanks R&D, after thirty years of gamers talking to gamers, we had yet to figure that out. Glad you finally helped us to see the light."

I just want to know what they are trying to achieve with this. If it's a new look and feel to the game that will actually touch and affect the existing worlds then fine. But if it was nothing other than a statement about how they think the game could be played now, well then really it's old news, because who hasn't played in such a campaign before?
To me, it means "I'm lazy". Its pretty much your prototypical junior high game (or "old school"). You wander from generic town to generic town, doing stuff. Its episodic, quick and easy to drop published modules in. Pretty much not to my tastes, as I like to think the game has grown up since the 70's even if the grognards didnt.
To talk about this constructively, an idea that makes sense for a developer is to create a game world where the major cities can be described in great detail so it's easier to discuss and to plan sweeping events that make sense both internally and to new players.

Also, it's more likely that a D&D world would exist where there really are not a vast number of magic using characters and a limited number of higher level characters.

What they might be describing is a half-return to a "new" Mystara or an official campaign on the internet vehicle they're meching. In any case, do not be alarmed. Eberron would not suddenly sensibly undergo another catastrophe, Forgotten Realms has too many admirers to go poofy apocalypse (although it might be interesting to see a Twilight "Forgotten Realms" 2000), and Greyhawk ain't like that.

Mebbe it was Ravenloft or Dark Sun or a political agenda.
I wasn't implying that they were speaking of creating a new campaign world in the latest R&D article. I just didn't see how this sparse, unknown world of danger and isolation applied to the current campaign settings.

Well that's easy. It doesn't affect the current campaign settings at all.
How it is a prototypical high school setting?

Points of Light could easily become a thriving world. Granted I'm not much of a fan of monsters taking the place of wildlife, but it could work.

Being a 'monster' isn't a fraternity. Wights aren't going to suddenly get along with ghouls or goblinoids.
As a "conceit," it strikes me reminiscent of much of Middle-earth. Which doesn't mean, if it were a full-blown setting, that it would have to be a Tolkien clone.
Wow... 4e is bringing out a lot of plots against players/DMs.

So lets say you don't want that type of landscape. Then do the opposite.

What would that be? Huge gigantic cities that are side by side covering the planet? Coruscant anyone?

http://coruscant.info/Globecoruscant.jpg


I'm just saying.


By the way... My sig isnt directed at anyone in this thread... It's inspired by a different thread.
One of the things that grabbed me about this was this:

"Another implication of this basic conceit of the world is that there is very little in the way of authority to deal with raiders and marauders, outbreaks of demon worship, rampaging monsters, deadly hauntings, or similar local problems. Settlements afflicted by troubles can only hope for a band of heroes to arrive and set things right. If there is a kingdom beyond the town’s walls, it’s still largely covered by unexplored forest and desolate hills where evil folk gather. The king’s soldiers might do a passable job of keeping the lands within a few miles of his castle free of monsters and bandits, but most of the realm’s outlying towns and villages are on their own."

So lets say you become well known for being a hero. It would be really easy to set yourself up as a Lord under such a system. You could even do some "Birthright" kind of roleplay if you wanted to. Want to be a Count? How's about you go and clear this county of danger? I'll even make you Reeve of that realm until you are able to do so. Fail and chances are that you will be dead. Abuse your power and I'll send other adventurers to come after you. Suceed and you and your future progney will sucure a place in the ruling class.

When I first heard about the points of light I though I was going to hate it. Now it's starting to grow on me. Adversity (the cornerstone of adventure) does breed opportunity.
While not a setting per se, this idea lets you run a game without knowing or developing a whole world in which to game, while many people enjoy the homebrew world creation it is a daunting task to the new player. By making things a little more, free form, it is easier to get new players to assimilate the game - and then move on to a more complex setting, which will be represented by the campaign setting books such as Forgotten Realms and Eberron.

It seems like a way to get into the game easily without needing to have lots of knowledge (either the character or the player) of the world at large. This lets you focus on your character, rather than where your character comes from in terms of nation, region, world at large.
I wasn't implying that they were speaking of creating a new campaign world in the latest R&D article. I just didn't see how this sparse, unknown world of danger and isolation applied to the current campaign settings.

Thus I was wondering if it might entail the design of a new setting to encompass such a barren world. Because currently it doesn't really fit the scheme of what's going on and thus I really couldn't see anyone applying it to the "core worlds" because of that fact.

So you really don't think that this PoL idea would fit in a Forgotten Realms, Greyhawk, Dragonlance or other published campaign setting?

Why not?

Go look at those worlds maps. Yes, there's plenty of towns, cities, named places, nations, etc shown on them. But there's also alot of empty space in between.
And though there's tons of written materiel for those worlds it doesn't apply to every single inch of the maps. Not every hex & mile is equelly civilized....

Do you want a real world comparrison? How about the Roman Empire. At it's peak, all across the globe, there were plenty of nations/regions under "civilized" control. And there were plenty of towns/cities, connective roads, trade routs things going on, etc as well.
But there was quite abit of empty space in between.

Want an even more recent example? Try the American west of the 1800s. That's right, cowboys & Indians & all that. Our east coast was well developed. Our boarders had reached from sea to shining sea....
But once you crossed byond a certain point, despite being civilized & having plenty of (western)towns scattered around, anything went & you were pretty much on your own.
Now imagine adding actual monsters to that....

And there's still places on Earth that match this.

The difference lies in transportation & comunication ability. Take those away and you're world becomes alot bigger.
You can't call for help. Good or bad, you don't know what just happened "over there" (be it 20 miles or 200 miles or 2k miles away).
And you won't be getting there to find out quickly either.

So, given that the D&D worlds are set in roughly medevial - renessance type settings, how can you NOT see how the Points of Light idea fits. It's ALWAYS fit.
Now imagine adding actual monsters to that....

And there's still places on Earth that match this.

Yeah, like Texas
This is one of the big concepts about 4e that interests me. The current setting conceits don't work. The economy is utterly broken, the societies are built upon flawed assumptions of what 'faux-medieval' (which it isn't, anyway) is like, and don't really take into account what effect all the game rules, magic and monsters would have on the setting.

As a player, I'm interested in seeing a new campaign setting based on this model.
As a dm, I'd probably continue working on my own.
When I first heard about the points of light I though I was going to hate it. Now it's starting to grow on me. Adversity (the cornerstone of adventure) does breed opportunity.

Though the PoL concept does seem to fit in with the idea of simplification for a new DM, my 1st and remaining impression is blah. It's workable, but doesn't do much to service the imagination for a PC's 30 levels. The "Kung Fu" idea that there are a bunch of towns just waiting for adventurers to drop by and save the day may be what happens in many campaigns anyway, but I'd rather have a coherent world where there are civilized and uncivilized regions in some sort of balance. PoL just seems too generic or pessimistic as a worldview for the default setting.
Though the PoL concept does seem to fit in with the idea of simplification for a new DM, my 1st and remaining impression is blah. It's workable, but doesn't do much to service the imagination for a PC's 30 levels. The "Kung Fu" idea that there are a bunch of towns just waiting for adventurers to drop by and save the day may be what happens in many campaigns anyway, but I'd rather have a coherent world where there are civilized and uncivilized regions in some sort of balance. PoL just seems too generic or pessimistic as a worldview for the default setting.

Actually, this is far more akin to the classic sword & sworcery stories of Conan than anything else. Where magic still means magic and your nexdoor neighbor isn't a minotaur married to a goblin. Where a person entering a city on a flying carpet is viewed with awe and mistrust.

I, for one, am glad they're using that model for the game as a whole. I think the idea that it's commonplace to see a wizard is crazy. The same goes for things like dragons & undead; they should be far removed from society. If history has proven anything, people will take up arms against anything once they know what it is. If it's out in the forest, though, and it's unknown, the common people will fear and hide from it.

Ktulu
This is one of the big concepts about 4e that interests me. The current setting conceits don't work. The economy is utterly broken, the societies are built upon flawed assumptions of what 'faux-medieval' (which it isn't, anyway) is like, and don't really take into account what effect all the game rules, magic and monsters would have on the setting.

As a player, I'm interested in seeing a new campaign setting based on this model.
As a dm, I'd probably continue working on my own.

We certainly do not know enough details yet to judge, but I doubt that the PoL concept really improves upon the items you discuss as broken in the existing settings. PoL is just a different concept (Dark Sun and other settings have tried in previous editions) on how good vs. evil, or civilized vs. noncivilized/barbaric, coexist. 4e may solve some of the economy or game rule issues that have always existed in DnD settings, but unless they are prepared to start most PCs out with spear, knives, and padded armor, I would not hold my breath.

As a player or DM, I can't see the PoL concept remaining interesting past the first few levels - most players want to have an apparent impact on the world at some point. PoL seems too fatalistic (?) to me, especially for the default setting.
Actually, this is far more akin to the classic sword & sworcery stories of Conan than anything else. Where magic still means magic and your nexdoor neighbor isn't a minotaur married to a goblin. Where a person entering a city on a flying carpet is viewed with awe and mistrust.

I, for one, am glad they're using that model for the game as a whole. I think the idea that it's commonplace to see a wizard is crazy. The same goes for things like dragons & undead; they should be far removed from society. If history has proven anything, people will take up arms against anything once they know what it is. If it's out in the forest, though, and it's unknown, the common people will fear and hide from it.

Ktulu

I agree that having magic and such be less commonplace is a good thing generally, but I read it (PoL concept) more as a combination of:

1) outposts of civilization (villages, towns) surrounded by uncivilized areas filled w/ monsters

2) little or no communication between these outposts, so much so that if one outpost is corrupted or overrun, the others won't know for some time, if ever

3) these outposts will be traveled to by the PCs as the starting points for the adventure du jour, assisting to keep or return them to safe outposts

I think those things are fine for the early levels of a PC, and possibly longer in a edge of civilization or Wild West region. I just can't see allowing the underlying assumptions to last ad infinitum once the PCs start getting more advanced - the monsters may become more dangerous (goblins-orcs-ogres-giants-dragons) but at some point someone would institute some means of mutual defense for these outposts of light. To think the PCs will be the first to try (or succeed) implies too much PC power IMO, or conversely to think it cannot be done to much degree (if at all) is too nihilistic. I like the Norse mythos as much as anyone, but that is a specific campaign mindset not right for the generic setting.

Wizards and magic being uncommon does not equal lack of a society - the warriors and powerful of the world would still work toward some level of order from the chaos. Every road would not go through dangerous terrain, and every community would not be self-sufficient enough to lack the need for trade with its neighbors..

I might be reading too much into 1 design article, but that's what I got out of it, and the first blush does not inspire me. I would rather they have simply used GH or FR as the default (if any) and kept the time-honored "start local and expand out as the PCs grow" generic campaign suggestion in most every edition.
And keep in mind that these are just examples of the "default" mode of play. That is, if you have no setting to play in, make up a funny name for the country and a couple of towns and then start playing. If you need more, make up more. If you get bored, make or buy a proper setting. I think it's a good idea. It allows you to play the game without investing in a setting, either with your money or your time, unless you want to.
A lot of good points

I see where you're comin' from and agree. However, I think this is more the simple design, allowing a build from the ground up. 3.x was more of a magical society, built very much for the likes of Ebberron & Forgotten Realms. While good, it didn't really allow for a scaling down to a lower magic type game. Hopefully, 4e's PoL will give that customization.

Ktulu
As a player or DM, I can't see the PoL concept remaining interesting past the first few levels - most players want to have an apparent impact on the world at some point. PoL seems too fatalistic (?) to me, especially for the default setting.

That's funny, I see it as just the opposite...the PoL idea gives players an opportunity to have more of an impact on a world more in need of heroes and without huge, tighly controlled nations ruled by multiple high level fighters, wizards and so on to, well, get in the way.
To me, the Points of Light idea sounds perfect all around.

With this kind of world "average people are afraid of the dark" and "adventurers are rare and thought to be insane" is perfect for a PC band wanting to make their mark.

In all the established setting there's also established heroes and villains. There's no real way to gain enough levels to change anything in these worlds. There's always Elminster to stop you from taking over, or Rikus to put you back in your place. With all the spots on the map filled in, it's less adventurous.

With many/most/all of the map still a mystery, any thing can happen, there could be an ancient ruin just beyond that hill or a dwarven mine. As opposed to FR where everyone know exactly what's over that raise.

It's boring playing in worlds that have 30 years of backstory, hell, even 5 years gets to be too much. I want my PCs to be the heroes, not bit players in someone else's game.
It has always been much rewarding to me to not just save the annonylous mass of all mankind, who couldn't really have in danger since there are super-epic-heroes much more powerful than I at every corner, but to help three or four people or maybe a small village with a real problem.
Also, when it comes to the end of the world, you allready know how it will end because the world can not be destroyed in a large setting. On the other hand, there is a real chance that a tiny villiage outside of the grand political scemes will be completely anhilated and it depends only on how good the PCs do. That's adventure!
Lands of the Barbarian Kings Campaign Setting - http://barbaripedia.eu
To me, the Points of Light idea sounds perfect all around.

With this kind of world "average people are afraid of the dark" and "adventurers are rare and thought to be insane" is perfect for a PC band wanting to make their mark.

In all the established setting there's also established heroes and villains. There's no real way to gain enough levels to change anything in these worlds. There's always Elminster to stop you from taking over, or Rikus to put you back in your place. With all the spots on the map filled in, it's less adventurous.

With many/most/all of the map still a mystery, any thing can happen, there could be an ancient ruin just beyond that hill or a dwarven mine. As opposed to FR where everyone know exactly what's over that raise.

It's boring playing in worlds that have 30 years of backstory, hell, even 5 years gets to be too much. I want my PCs to be the heroes, not bit players in someone else's game.

Exactly my point of view...
I want mystery and darkness (read: lack of knowledge about "what's that" or "what lies there", along with the Fear of those elements) to be tangible in the Air, and "points of Light" concept fits in perfectly...
Reading this thread, people seem to either love or hate the idea. Personally, I like it, as it makes great sense for the new player - and this is what many people forget the NEW player. Sure many of us veterans know and like established worlds, but they can be overwhelming to new people who all of a sudden have to learn 30 years worth of historical fiction to assimilate. The person not knowing this, well their character is always going to feel kind of stiff, it's hard to make a statement when you don't know the answer (though that doesn't stop most people, especially on the internet :P )

Now, this concept can work in the established setting. Heck, it actually reminds me a bit of darksun - there are some cities that never change, but the sand swallows and reveals strange stuff all the time.. Of course with this idea in place, I expect the DMG to include more about creating a setting from the ground up, and this is what I plan to do with 4e - do my own setting, start from the village all the players come from, concessions made to what races and all, and go from their. If the players go west and discover a ruined tower, well that gets placed otherwise blank map. The party is going to make the map as they go along.
(Warning, long post)

My problem with points of light is that it's too restrictive, when a more generic model that allows for so much more could do better.

A kingdom for example has it's castle with it's king and major city. Towns and villages are spread out from this kingdom with a few other smaller strongholds throughout ruled by dukes, ect. These are all connected by roads and trade routes. The closer things are to the major city, the more control the king has, things are safer there, and travel and trade on the road is relatively safe. The further you get, the harder it is for a king to expend the resources necessary to make things safe. He probably has some guards posted there, but all in all the people exist mostly on their own and are mostly just required to pay taxes.

The further one gets from the focal point the more dangerous the roads get and the easier it is for a town to be in trouble. The closer to the boarder of two different kingdoms even more so.

Travel between kingdoms usually would take place along specific trade routes and because of how difficult such a long route is to hold, trade between rather than within kingdoms is a lot rarer and more lucrative.

Because of the distance and relative volatile nature of the wilderness within a D&D world, most civilized places will be more engrossed in themselves, thus being a bit isolationist, and civilized wars would be less common, with kingdoms defending themselves more from raiders and rampaging monsters.

Everyone needs everyone elses help, but everyone is already too tied up to help each other. Occasionally tides will be stemmed, and alliances can grow, there is some overall connectivity between everyone but it's not overwhelming. Inner kingdom and outer kingdoms politics still exist. There are places of peace, and places in serious danger that are mostly isolated, and there are plenty of opportunities for players to get involved with all kinds of plot, and there is a definite source of need for the PCs. They can go and do things kings cannot, they can eventually travel easily between kingdom to kingdom, they can go into the uncharted wilds and explore new lands, they can help border towns whom are mostly on their own. They can explore ancient ruins and temple long since abandoned in places kings cannot easily get to.

This is what I think best fits a generic setting, as it forces one to take not only dungeon crawling, ruin exploration into account, but politics and social interaction as well.

It's not only generic, but fits far closer to real world middle ages in feel as well. If I were designing the generic setting this is what I would do.
My problem with points of light is that it's too restrictive, when a more generic model that allows for so much more could do better.

[...]

It's not only generic, but fits far closer to real world middle ages in feel as well. If I were designing the generic setting this is what I would do.

Actually, that's less generic. As described, you can easily assume the very things you've just said. It's common sense (if that's your thing). However with just the Points of Light, you can assume that the king's city extends its influence into the night or you can assume that the king's city is "far away" such that it doesn't really come up in your games, or you can assume that the cities are little more than slightly larger "points of light".

Also, while "politics" and the like are semi-viable in D&D, the main, base focus is on dungeon-delving heroes. So that's where things start. More "advanced" play can be added on as needed (if even desired).
Actually, that's less generic. As described, you can easily assume the very things you've just said. It's common sense (if that's your thing). However with just the Points of Light, you can assume that the king's city extends its influence into the night or you can assume that the king's city is "far away" such that it doesn't really come up in your games, or you can assume that the cities are little more than slightly larger "points of light".

Also, while "politics" and the like are semi-viable in D&D, the main, base focus is on dungeon-delving heroes. So that's where things start. More "advanced" play can be added on as needed (if even desired).

The thing is, many many many people want far more from D&D than just dungeon delving, they want it to be what it says it is, role-playing game.

why do you think there are so many people demanding more role-playing potential?

The problem with points of light, is by concept it's role-play light. It has little need to cater to role-playing much at all. If they create the system based on the concept of points of light, that bodes very ill news for people who want more role-playing support and I think those people make up a large percentage of the D&D community.

In fact I don't think I've run an actual "dungeon" in years.

A generic setting needs to be a skeletal version of what a game can be so that people can add flesh to the skeleton. The current "points of light" is like a skeleton without a head. It has everything it needs to help others create a vast dungeon delving environment with small settlements in need of help. If you want to expand the social environment of the game, there's no skeletal support for that at all. If they had added that there were larger pocket kingdoms which had more control, and gave details in how to deal with such things, then you could use that skeletal feature to add more or less of that kind of thing to the game.

There's is no support in this concept for larger societal structures of any sort, and if you build the game without considering a need for such, it will go lacking.
The Points of Light conceit simply seems to be a nod towards most campaigns as they actually are, and an attempt to justify the fact that powerful nations seem to always border on camps of 100 (at most) kobolds who could be slaughtered to a lizard-dog within three days.

Look, if humanity (and associated demihuman races) are so populous and well-organized as to more or less fill the continent, I've got news for you, Goblins and Orcs went extinct at least 500 years ago, same as the Neanderthals.

It's questionable that even mighty dragons could survive long in a very populous world well-organized in terms of defense and roads and lines of communication. Sure, the species might survive, but they'd tend to be like Vermithrax in Dragonslayer, the last dragon in an entire country. Dragons are rare, but they'd be rarer still in a world teeming with humans (and, therefore, large organized armies).

I like the dark ages feel of the conceit. (After the plague, many towns were ghost-towns, utterly abandoned. Even major towns had up to one third of their buildings abandoned, given back to the weeds and ivy and rats.)

There are havens of civilization and near civilization, but beyond that are the wilds, the virgin forests, the crumbled cities of races who died out 10,000 years ago but whose treasures, and ghosts, remain.

It's not a requirement. They already said Forgotten Realms and eberron would be unaffected by this conceit. It's just a decent attempt to rationalize that which is, when you think about it, pretty irrational. And it does a superficially decent job at doing so, which is the best one can expect.

It's a basic conceit *offered* to DMs as a default setting type. Certainly it will not be imposed on anyone.
The thing is, many many many people want far more from D&D than just dungeon delving, they want it to be what it says it is, role-playing game.

why do you think there are so many people demanding more role-playing potential?

The problem with points of light, is by concept it's role-play light. It has little need to cater to role-playing much at all. If they create the system based on the concept of points of light, that bodes very ill news for people who want more role-playing support and I think those people make up a large percentage of the D&D community.

Please. Most role-playing goes on in city-based adventures anyway, which are popular enough... but this setting specifically includes cities, doesn't it? If you want to set a campaign in Lankhmar, you can. (Always a great place for a campaign, of course.)

This explanation doesn't take that away. Instead it seeks to provide some sort of (thin) rationalization as to why all the roads and forests are teeming with megapredators, undead, and suspiciously-unlooted treasure vaults we call dungeons.

The points of light explanation affects a city-based campaign not at all. (Or only to the extent they do venture out into the darklands, which Ffafhrd and the Grey Mouser did quite a bit too.)

Bearing in mind that most D&D campaigns exist in this sort of world anyway -- a world in which there are "wandering monsters" stalking even fairly well-traveled highways -- what's the problem with just acknowledging that fact?

Look at Conan. There was an area filled with people, people who were relatively prosperous, people who could craft good armor and weapons and train in great armies. That area was Aquilonia (and Nemedia, and environs).

*But he didn't actually adventure there much.*

Why?

Because it's damned hard to adventure in a place where humanity has conquered the elements through its organizational and demographic superiority.

When he DID adventure there, he did so to seize the crown. In other words, do intrigue/social role-playing type stuff.

The points of light thing does not necessarily define the world. It probably does not define the great kingdoms that serve as the great powers of the world. However it is a fair conceit to describe the wilder and more sparsely-populated lands *where actual adventuring is most likely to occur.*
One of the most important aspects of city life is trade and it's connection to other cities and kingdoms. In fact many cities ways of life are often defined by their main trade. A port town is special because it is a place that has access to lots of trade. Trade, black markets, etcetera all are important parts of city life. If a city exists in a void, you've lost half of what a city is. Points of light can't have cities, especially as many cities are DEPENDANT upon lots of trade just to exist and support it's population. Points of light can't support more than a small village.

Also organized civilization does not equal the end of the less civilized races at all, as staying an organized civilization in a world with all the things in it that a D&D world has would take most of the kingdoms resources. While the king can keep his main city and some of the closer villages relatively safe, it takes most of his resources, if he sends his knights off to every corner of his kingdom to solve every problem, his kingdom will fall apart because his forces will be spread to thin. Maintaining a kingdom would require a constant vigil. Adventures play an important part in the world because they can alter or help maintain the delicate balance.

I'd prefer a generic system to have pocket kingdoms and pocket villages both combined, because if you don't do such, you may very well miss many important aspects of the game entirely in the design of it.
I'd prefer a generic system to have pocket kingdoms and pocket villages both combined, because if you don't do such, you may very well miss many important aspects of the game entirely in the design of it.

People are looking at this way too narrowly. From the article, "The centers of civilization are few and far between...", which says that there are centers of civilization, ie cities and kingdoms. They're just "points of light" on a different scale. And trade still exists, it's just dangerous. How dangerous? Dangerous enough for the cities to function, but still provide opportunities for adventure. Again, this is just a default conciet, and vaguely defined at that. If you pick up the game and start playing "out of the box" so to speak, that is the kind of generic world you'll be playing in unless you choose to create or buy a different setting.
Realistically most people has been playing a Points of Light campaign anyway.

Look, guys: How many times have your heroes been hired to guard caravans being attacked by goblins along major trade routes?

How many times have small villages have had to offer a reward to heroes to clean out the Old Moathouse from which orcs are raiding the town?

Come on.

It's a recognition of the world as it usually seems to exist in most D&D campaigns anyway. Were the world as populous as modern-day Europe, with just about every bit of arable land inhabited or farmed, and large groups of well-trained militia and barracks full of nearby legionnaires able to take care of border raids and haunted monasteries, adventurers wouldn't have very much to do would they?

True they could still adventure in cities. But then cities have their own Points of Light, don't they? There are places where there are beasties (sewers, bad parts of town, abandoned buildings, the ruins of the Old City, etc.) and parts where there are few of them. (At least what beasties there are have to be capable of passing as human.)

This is not some world-breaking idea. Like Class Roles, it's a recognition of the current state of things anyway. An explication of it, an elaboration, and probably an attempt at (thin) justification.

If you're not already playing in Points of Light campaign I don't see how it can be the case that so frequently your heroes are the only halfway competent paramilitary force the locals can call upon in a crisis.
What you're saying is that I should ignore the concept that monsters wander around with their own cultures, their own agenda, using the treasure they collect, and doing what seems sensible.

No, instead they stay in a twenty foot by twenty foot room unless they are wandering monsters in which case they appear out of nowhere.

Yes, and that moat house. It wasn't so point of light as you insist: the bandits were doing things other than waiting for adventurers, their clerical leader was making requisitions, sending out messengers, conducting espionage. The moat house was also a forward outpost for a temple that was just as politically active and eventful as the city nearby the moathouse.

Of course people will always associate a certain speech concerning points of light as stupid. Of course it's not thought of as smart, the concept of D&D adventures as composed of tiny encounters that never move, never change, never act until the adventurers cast their shadow. The game world is not the slave of the characters. It functions as an independent character.

So if you have any concept of a well run game by a DM who isn't stupified and agonised beyond wit's capacity, you'll avoid the "point of light" and go straight to designing a living, breathing campaign full of detail and sense.
What you're saying is that I should ignore the concept that monsters wander around with their own cultures, their own agenda, using the treasure they collect, and doing what seems sensible.

No, instead they stay in a twenty foot by twenty foot room unless they are wandering monsters in which case they appear out of nowhere.

I have no idea what you're talking about, no idea how you got the idea from my words (if you did) that a Points of light campaign means monsters just sit around in a 20 by 20 foot room all day.

I think I was pretty clear: A sparsely populated world with any kind of real military power located only in cities and great fortresses (themselves few and far between) is the only way to explain why goblins and orcs have not already been hunted down into extinction by genocide, as were the Neanderthals, even though the Neanderthals were facing a far less numerous and well-armed opponent.

You cannot explain woods full of megapredators and bandits and orcs and kobolds which regularly raid villages if there are major garrisons all around the countryside. You can't. It doesn't happen. If four adventurers can take care of the danger, then certainly 150 legionnaires can, and they would have taken care of it long, long ago.

Are there many wolves or grizzlies near you? No? Gee, why do you think that is?

To the extent you can say yes at all, it's because coyotes and bears were hunted to near-extinction levels and are now protected by environmental protection laws.

Are you claiming the feudal D&D society similarly has campaigns to stop the eradication of the orc from his natural habitat, or laws against killing the engangered owlbear?

As for this:

Yes, and that moat house. It wasn't so point of light as you insist: the bandits were doing things other than waiting for adventurers, their clerical leader was making requisitions, sending out messengers, conducting espionage. The moat house was also a forward outpost for a temple that was just as politically active and eventful as the city nearby the moathouse.

Of course people will always associate a certain speech concerning points of light as stupid. Of course it's not thought of as smart, the concept of D&D adventures as composed of tiny encounters that never move, never change, never act until the adventurers cast their shadow. The game world is not the slave of the characters. It functions as an independent character.

So if you have any concept of a well run game by a DM who isn't stupified and agonised beyond wit's capacity, you'll avoid the "point of light" and go straight to designing a living, breathing campaign full of detail and sense.

Here's the most embarrassing sort of smack-talk in the world: the popular "I'm a far better D&D player than you are" boast.

Dude, I got news for you: If you're actually plotting out the movements and transactions of all your world's creatures even when you're not playing, in order, I guess, to "create a living, breathing campaign" where all sorts of things are happening 24 hours a day all over the world, you've really, really got to get another hobby.

Presumably you mean the bandits might leave the moathouse soon, as bandits do, being itinerant fugitives and all? So if you have to cancel a few game sessions, you dutifully record the fact that the bandits have moved on in the interim and are now the moathouse which you had painstakingly stocked with bandits is now completely empty?

You... do this, huh? In the interest of creating a "living, breathing campaign" where monsters do not merely appear when players come across them but in fact are running very interesting lives even away from the gaming table?

This is the sort of bullsh@t we can have a bit less of, please.

If any of this is true... I would *not* brag about it, man.
So if you have any concept of a well run game by a DM who isn't stupified and agonised beyond wit's capacity, you'll avoid the "point of light" and go straight to designing a living, breathing campaign full of detail and sense.

OR... you can just start playing and have fun. And here's the great thing about all of that culture and background you're putting into your monsters and encounters. For the most part, the players don't care! Rarely do they think to themselves, "Gee, I wonder what sort of disturbance to the ecosystem caused an imbalance in that gryffon's natural prey such that he felt the need to attack our caravan?" It was a wandering monster. It attacked. If the PCs decide that they care, then make something up.

And while a living breathing world can be a fun thing for the DM to create as he scribbles away alone in his basement, without the PCs the players won't care and it might as well not exist. So, yes, as much as you might want to deny it, the game world is there, just waiting for the PCs to come rescue it, because if it doesn't involve the PCs or the PCs don't get involved in it, it's just the DM playing with himself.
another point in favor of Points of Light:

On earth, man is the dominant species. The hyperpower species, actually. When one draws national borders on an earth-like map, one immediately assumes all the area within the country is under human dominion. Because what is there to stop humans from inhabiting every square inch of land worth inhabiting at all?

This is actually not even close to the situation in D&D. Man (and his allies) have not been able to exterminate the humanoids that contest the globe. So apparently they're fairly powerful -- if not as powerful as man and his allies, at least powerful enough to hold their own lands and raid into human lands.

Nevermind dragons, which are a hyperpower unto themselves, controlling hundreds of square miles of territory, able to repel even an army of a thousand that tries to displace them.

D&D has long assumed the situation was like the situation on earth -- full dominion of habitable lands by humans (and allied races) -- despite the fact it simultaneously assumed the opposite.

So which is it? If humans have the sort of full control over all the lands they survey, as on earth, how can orcs and goblins still exist even close to their lands? We always assume (because it's easy to) that humans dominate, but orcs and goblins occupy "niche" areas, a cave here, a village there, the proverbial abandoned fortress there. But obviously a tribe of orcs can't survive just in a cave; even if it lives by hunting animals, it needs hundreds of acres to sustain itself.

And so, if you think about it, if it is the case there are all these hostile races on the world which are not under the power of a human king (that is, actually incorporated into the kingdom with some if not all rights of citizens) but rather in open warfare with humans, always contesting humans for precious land-space needed for sustenance, then it sort of *must* be the case that human dominion is far, far more restricted on a D&D world than it is on the actual earth (even the far less populated medieval era of earth). Humans are the most populous race by far; and demihuman races the runners up (though there are far less of them), but out there in the wilds there are still so many humanoids and megapredators that even the concerted efforts of large human armies cannot wipe them out or drive them away to another continent through long-term migration.

So it does make sense, given the assumption that the D&D world is not one of human dominion, not even human dominance, but merely one in which humans are the most numerous but not nearly so numerous to actually impose their will upon the world, that "nations" would actually consist of patchy areas of human control, centered around great cities and large towns and fortresses. Outside of that, humans might live in small villages, but always under the frequent threat of the various monsters that share the lands with them.

Again, this seems to be partly the sort of world that most games have been played in anyway, and partly a recognition that in a world teeming with orcs, gnolls, goblins, hobgoblins, kobolds, giant spiders, dragons, etc., actual human military control/domination is rather limited. Where it is strongly established, it is usually unchallenged, but everywhere else it's the wild west.

Or, to use an analogy which might be in bad taste: Iraq is obviously a state, and nominally controlled by the Iraqi government with major assistance by coalition troops, but obviously an awful lot of it is decidedly not under control of the state, and instead under the control of bandits and "monsters" (terrorists-- hey, sorry, they are monsters). There are "Green Zones" of relative control, forward operating bases (fortresses) of influence, etc., but obviously Iraq is not a country controlled by lawful forces in the way the US or England is.

In the D&D world, it would all be Iraq, by and large. There may be some very powerful and populous civilizations where order (however brutally achieved) is the norm,but adventurers would by and large not seek their fortune there, as money is made in such areas by trade and not by the sword. The actual adventuring world would be largely in the borderland type areas, the areas held tenuously by humans, the forests and jungles, etc.

There would be relatively safe areas where humans/human allies held dominion and had full military control, but much of it, perhaps half or more, would be no-go zones. In a D&D world, where the adventuring actually happens, there's likely to be a big city as a home base and some larger towns as temporary bases for excursions; beyond that, the land isn't empty of humans, but it isn't full of humans, either, and humans are in constant peril.
I've always liked the idea of a "Dark Ages" campaign, with little organization above the city-state level, and lots of local rulers (some good, some not). Feudalism hasn't been "invented" yet, and so on. It seems to me an interesting setting for adventurers, and fairly congruous with the PoL thing.

Really, it's the players and GM who make role-play possible, not the setting. People who really want to, will. Those who don't, will just do the monster-bashing. Whatever buoys one's navy, eh?
Why is it that whenever we mention that some kingdoms and civilized areas exist people assume it means all evil humanoids would be able to be hunted into extinction?

Castles and kingdoms were built for defense, they were designed expressly because of marauding hoards, because of humans that did the very thing that orcs and goblins do. Yet these people still existed alongside kingdoms and castles for a very long time. Add in other monsters, ect, and owning a kingdom becomes even more of a defense position.

Kingdoms would exist, but expansion would be very inconsistent even in the rare instance that it happens, because there are constant raids and warfare.

If people all lived in isolated villages, and were paranoid to leave their homes while all these monsters and marauders exist, it's not the monsters you need to worry about going extinct.

The reason why so many people accepted serfdom was because without the kings protection they were at the mercy of any roving band of marauders that came their way to do with them what they wished.

Points of light would either be a very short period or the civilized (but not really as real civilization is IMPOSSIBLE in a points of light scenerio) races that hole up rather than fight back against the dangers of the outside would be mercilessly slaughtered by their much more aggressive adversaries. Or they would quickly realize they need to organize and band together in some fashion for each others mutual survival.

Isolated villages do not survive in such a hostile world, and it's specifically because of this that more advanced social structures need to exist. A village cannot last in this scenario, it will be destroyed. Either everyone is primitive or somebody is organized.

The more hostile the environment the less likely points of light actually is. Do you realize how much resources would be needed to sustain an isolated city and how difficult it would be to keep all that farm land protected in such a hostile environment? Just building walls around all that farm land would take more resources than any city could even begin to afford and the amount of guards you'd need to defend it otherwise would make every city populace mostly consist of militia.

The whole points of light concept is insane.

Yeah sure a dark ages game could be amusing, but be aware of how short a period of it was before these castles and their "knights" (no better than marauders in uniforms) showed up and things started changing. Points of light is unstable at best and cannot last.

The only reason people even survived in the dark ages before being defended and having trade was because the raids were rare enough that owning farm land was possible, but things were still so bad that given the option of what basically consisted of slavery and horrible treatment and few to no rights was still better than letting the marauders have their way.

I don't think all of you in favor of points of light really realize how much land and resources is required to sustain a civilization. The only reason this points of light might exist is so that the marauders can pillage them blind whenever they make their rounds in that neck of the woods.

We're talking about a life so poor and so meager that it makes Ravenloft proud. So unless we're going the way of White Wolf where everything is always dank, dark, and depressing, points of light is the wrong way to go.

Points of light my butt, more like a dim glow in the hour of misery.
First off "Points of Light" is not a campaign setting it is a gaming state of mind. Let me see if I can explain it with an example.

You and your adventuring party are enjoying yourselves at a tavern in the castle city of Kingsthrone, a large prosperous city. It and the lands a day and half ride around it are fairly well defended by the king's army. While drink you over hear to merchants talking about a compatriot that hasn't shown up in a week. You inquire further and find out that the missing merchant's town is a 3 day ride from here. Your group decides to check it out. A days ride out while camping your party is attacked by a swarm of stirges. You kill many of them and drive the rest back. After following the survivors, you find their nest and destroy it. The next day while riding you pass a abandoned keep, but pay it no mind. Halfway into your 3 day of travel you are ambushed by a group of orcs. Your experienced party slaughters them easily. after another miles ride you come to the walled town of Stoneriver. Once the townfolk see you they know you are skilled adventurers by your quality weapons and gear. The mayor invites you to a feast at her manor. There she explains that this town has been under attack for the last weak by orc raiders, and the refuges from small towns have escaped here after their villages have been razed. You and your allies share a smile, this should be fun.
Wolf_Boy, I think you're reading too much into the "points of light" business. These "points" aren't three huts huddled together 10 feet from a wall of ominious trees. They're entire villages and and stretches of farmland and a few roads. They may be quite pleasant and functional and happy. However, just a few miles outside of that radius are the dangerous woods.

But they're aren't packed with horrors just waiting to jump out and eat the town. You could probably wander into them once in a while and come out fine. They're just a threat. And sometimes, occasionally, something might creep out of the darkness, or somebody might go missing. Maybe there's a raid by goblins a couple of times in a generation.

This is a default "style" of play, not a setting. If you think of a reason why "points of light" is stupid, then you're thinking the wrong thing. The villages are small, but not so small as to be non-functional. Trade is dangerous, but not so dangerous as to make it unvaible. Help from "the king's men" is available, but not so readily available that adventurers aren't needed. Communication is fast enough, but not so fast that bad things can't go unnoticed for a while. Cities exists, but are not so prominent as to make the world safe. Heck, think of towns in the American Old West. They were, at least in the fiction, constantly beset by bandits and natives and were unable to go for help, thus relying on help from the heroic drifter that wandered into town.

Is that realistic? I don't know. Maybe not. But D&D isn't supposed to simulate reality. It's supposed to simulate fantasy-adventure fiction.